REVIEW: Megadeth makes manic metal magic

Megadeth GigCity EdmontonMegadeth has been cranking out its brand of speed metal for so long that there’s no way they can mess it up, as long as they still have the stamina to pull it off. It’s like cooking a good hamburger: Well done, burned on the outside, a little blood in the middle. Served fresh and steaming hot. Heavy metal fans are very loyal to their favourite bands.

And maybe a little hungry.

A delightful, deafening blend of chaos and order was witnessed by about 5,000 fans at Rexall Place Wednesday night. Small crowd, big love for Megadeth. They knew what they were going to get: a long and satisfying night of shredding electric guitars, bone-loosening bass and double-kick powered drums that sound like .50 caliber machine guns – in songs about war, death, doom, and more war. What other kind of songs could you write when your name is Megadeth? This is one band that’s stuck to its guns. Also bombs and plague and so on. Frontman-guitar-whiz Dave Mustaine is Christian, last we checked, so that End Times attitude fits very well the sort of menacing heavy metal heard in furious blasts and bursts at the show. Highlights included Symphony of Destruction, Peace Sells (not actually a song about peace) and a new one, Dystopia. Cheery.

Kiko Loureiro Megadeth GigCity Edmonton

Kiko Loureiro shreds with Megadeth in Edmonton

There is a rule (that very few bands follow) that states that heavy metal must be fast. Speedy songs don’t often become hits. It’s the slow songs that get on the radio. When was the last time you heard a Megadeth song on the radio? They’re stubborn, these guys. There wasn’t a damned ballad in the entire night. One song late in the set had a lovely intro, with fine guitar work from dependable wingman Kiko Loureiro – which brought out the Bic lighters, the tribute of real fire that real rock demands when real rock turns to balladry. But it was short lived as the usual thundering drive kicked in and the song took off.

Heedless of writing hits, this band has been off the mainstream radar for decades, drawing faithful fans who hew to the old ways. The “Big Four” – Megadeth, Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer – are said to have invented thrash metal, and it hasn’t changed much in more than 30 years. Fans know well the schism when Dave Mustaine was “let go” from Metallica long ago. Like penguins separated from a land mass that haven’t had a chance to evolve into a completely distinct species, Megadeth sounds a bit like Metallica (or maybe it’s the other way around). Metallica on speed.

The whole night was a speed trip. There were three opening bands. Children of Bodom was a hardcore band with keyboards. Interesting. Suicidal Tendencies – which was just here opening for Slipknot five months ago, and hadn’t been in Edmonton at all prior to that – was once again a powerful antidote to any actual suicidal tendencies. Mixing hardcore with a little hip hip flava, skipping joyfully around the stage as they did it, the band opened with an anthem, a mantra, You Can’t Bring Me Down, and similar tunes in a short but ferocious set. Between songs the exuberant frontman Mike Muir offered affirmations to any willing to accept them: “Believe in yourself!” was but one.

Suicidal Tendencies GigCity EdmontonThe first band Havok, from Denver, was fast and tight and the most blatantly political. “The world is exceedingly fucked up and it’s getting more fucked up,” said singer David Sanchez in a speech before a song called Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death – perfect hardcore punk sentiment.

Meanwhile, one of the fun parts about a Megadeth concert is seeing what outrageous thing Dave Mustaine is going to say next. His mouth has got him in trouble before. Will he throw his support behind Donald Trump, talk about hunting elephants with Ted Nugent, start speaking in tongues? He didn’t do any of that. He talked about spending the day with the troops in Edmonton, got a little salty with an unruly fan, and told some funny stories about where some of the songs came from. Skin of My Teeth, for instance, was written after a trip to the dentist. True story.

Just before the encore he told the crowd, “I love hearing the shit that comes out of my mouth, because I never know what I’m going to do!”

Except for about 30 years of the same kind of music, that is.